The bigger picture.

In a few short weeks, I’ll once again be helping to run ATS® Homecoming, an event that gathers the American Tribal Style® community together here in San Francisco. I’ll be running the registration table with Cat Ellen and a few dedicated volunteers; please stop by to say hello when you pick up your name tag.

And come to my workshops! There’s three workshops over the course of the weekend, with room in all:

Many of you have asked after me, and I appreciate it. For me, this event will be bittersweet and hard. A few months ago I was coldly “suspended” from the FatChanceBellyDance teaching collective, with no advance notice or conversation, and with no clear or realistic path to reinstatement. Further, when I announced this, I was subsequently publicly gaslighted when representatives from the collective falsely told the community that it was my choice to leave.

As someone who manages people in my day job, I have a lot to say on how to fire someone with grace, class, and dignity, but for now I’ll say: this ain’t it. All of this bitterness and anger on both sides could have been avoided if someone from FatChance had simply reached out to me first.

But you know what? As a community, we have bigger problems than petty interpersonal crap. We are living in a scary political time, when global nationalism is sweeping the USA and other countries.

Our art form may be uniquely American, but it has its roots in social dances from the Middle East. In addition to the ongoing crisis in Aleppo, many in the Middle East belong to a religion that our incoming government has publicly maligned, leading to intensifying, more public discrimination and violence against our neighbors here at home.

These are frightening times.  The world is painful and scary, and many of us — especially white women — are only just now waking up to how painful and scary it is.

As artists inspired by the Middle East and India, we could just sit back and make art. We could send “thoughts and prayers” to Syria while we lavish ourselves with pounds of antique jewelry from that region. We could set our intentions for global healing as we make art and hope that somehow this changes the world outside of our own heads.

Unfortunately, the most effective currency we have to make change, even as artists, is still currency. Money. While it’s important to support the artists in our community who make costuming and jewelry, or the teachers sharing their knowledge, we need to act in other ways too. Here’s where I’m sending my currency: The American Civil Liberties UnionInternational Rescue CommitteeIslamic Relief USA. And there are so many other organizations worthy of our financial support.

If you have the financial ability to do so, I invite you to join me. The challenges we are facing as a community are bigger than any of us. And they are real, and tangible, and our response should be too.

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Tribal Fest 14 Recap

Yep, it’s taken me over a week to process Tribal Fest 14.  It’s always such an intense experience, with dancers coming from all over the world.  And it’s a nonstop barrage of people — some of whom you know, and some of whom know you — which is a lot to handle for this introvert.

I only came up Saturday and Sunday – Saturday to perform, shop, and take a workshop with the lovely Devi Mamak, and Sunday to work at the FCBD® booth.  That means I missed seeing the lovely ladies and gent of Ebb & Flow performing on Friday night.  Ebb & Flow is a group of skilled ATS® dancers who are all based in the East Bay of the San Francisco area, led by Wendy Allen and Sandi Ball from FatChanceBellyDance®.  Check out this beautiful choreography.

(Yes, it’s choreo, and yes, that’s okay in ATS®, in case you’re curious.  FatChanceBellyDance® has always done some choreo, especially for big stage shows, or where we want to make the best use of a strange space like the very wide and shallow Tribal Fest stage.  The hallmark of ATS® is still improv, though, and that hasn’t changed.  Stay tuned for another blog post about that; I have many thoughts.)

I also missed Donna Mejia, who is one of my favorite fusion artists and teachers.  If you haven’t taken a workshop with her, please sign up for the first available; it will change how you think about bodies and movement and space.  She doesn’t have her Tribal Fest piece up, but you can go check out her YouTube channel and witness the expansive power of her artistry.

But Saturday was great!

I zoomed up to Sebastopol in the morning to catch my friend Heather Powers for her solo on the Tribal Fest stage.  Heather is an elegant, fluid artist who has joined the management team over at Bright Star World Dance in Portland, Maine, the dance studio I still co-own in name if not in day-to-day.  I’m grateful for her help, and I know my business partner Rosa Noreen is as well.  Check out Heather’s beautiful solo.

And of course there were lots of other performances Saturday, from the sublime to the truly weird.  But that’s okay; Tribal Fest is basically an open stage, not a juried show, and it’s an opportunity for people to express themselves.  It’s where we can all really let our freak flag fly, if that’s what we want.

FatChanceBellyDance® closed the show on Saturday.  There’s been a lot of anxiety and questioning in the broader tribal dance community about what’s been happening at the Mothership, and Carolena wanted a way for us to show the community what’s been going on at the studio.  Her goal was to show everyone that even with the proliferation of studio troupes, that we’re all still connected and enjoying being with each other.

I was point person, which meant I was in charge of wrangling twenty dancers.  TWENTY. But everyone took responsibility for themselves, and everyone showed up on time and was so easy and fun to work with.  And Carolena was happy, which meant we all were happy.  Here is the joyful result of our efforts.  Enjoy!

Tribal Illumination, July 19-20 2014 in Portland, Maine

Registration is OPEN for the Tribal Illumination weekend in Portland, Maine!

Maine is beautiful in July, and we’ll be dancing all weekend at the beautiful new location of Bright Star World Dance in Portland’s historic West End neighborhood.  We’re planning eight hours of instruction, plus a hafla in the studio, and I can’t wait to see all of my New England dancers again!

Click here to register for the whole weekend.  One-day passes will be opening up soon, assuming the weekend doesn’t sell out first.

Want to know what you’ll be getting yourself into?  Have a look.

Saturday, July 19, 11am – 1pm
Tribal Foundations for Clean Lines
Immerse yourself in the powerful-yet-fluid aesthetic of American Tribal Style® bellydance. We’ll begin with a thorough warm-up, and then dig deeply into applications of the ATS® posture and vocabulary that can be applied to any style of bellydance. Learn how to create fluid shapes rooted in vibrant stillness, and use your body and breath to project joy, gratitude, and an open, regal presence. Open to all levels of bellydancers, of any style, looking to refine posture and add strength, grace, and precision. Advanced ATS dancers will get a lot out of this workshop as well!

Saturday, July 19, 2-4pm
Tribal-Style Turns & Spins
The grounded, smooth aesthetic of ATS-style spins and turns can lend a regal air to your performance, no matter what style you call your own. Learn the subtle tricks in your feet, hips, and torso that will allow you to be solid in your footing, and create a crisp and sure landing in slow turning moves. Then, we’ll take these concepts and apply them to faster turns, including the always challenging calibrated spin! Dancers of all levels & styles are welcome.

Sunday, July 20, 11am-1pm
Musicality for ATS®
The ATS vocabulary and formations provide endless variety to meaningfully interpret your music. Learn how to listen for shapes in the music and create beautiful, elegant visuals that work musically with any song style in our repertoire. Developing your ATS musicality will not only enrich the audience’s experience, but will also result in you having much more fun dancing!
Please know the basics of the ATS level 1 vocabulary, including simple trio and quartet formations.

Sunday, July 20, 2-4pm
Dueling Duets Done Well
The elusive dueling duet: an audience favorite that is easy to learn, but challenging to master. Learn best practices to “duel” beautifully and musically, using this fun formation to keep the audience entranced! We’ll also cover simple variations to create beautiful and unique shapes, as well as the newest variations to come out of the FCBD® studio, not available on any DVD!
Please know the basics of the ATS level 1 vocabulary, including simple duet and quartet formations.

Come on out for a fun weekend not to be missed.  Portland is only two hours’ drive from the Boston area, and is served by Concord Trailways buslines, Amtrak, and an international airport.  Hotels abound, and there are lots of AirBnB options for lodging.  Can’t wait to see you all!  Register today.